Trials, Tribes, and the Trail of Ayash

Trail of Ayash Preview

Humans are a tribal species. Even aside from the blood lineage of indigenous peoples, everyone likes to feel that they’re part of a like-minded group. It brings us strength, comfort, and a sense of belonging and purpose. Of course, there’s a downside, too. Sometimes tribes bring out some of the darker aspects of human nature. While it isn’t based on specific tribal cultures, Trail of Ayash is sort of a tribal greatest hits. It brings together elements from different world cultures with a lot of made-up additions.

Small Developer, Big Dreams

Trail of Ayash is a semi-open-world action RPG made by a surprisingly small team of two people. It’s very much in the same vein as The Witcher series, Elden Ring, Skyrim, Morrowind, or other games in the genre. Instead of taking place in a medieval fantasy world, Trail of Ayash inhabits an ancient-feeling landscape inhabited by many tribes and monsters. The monsters primarily come from myths and legends. In the world of Ayash, though, they’re real.

Trails of Ayash is built on the template of many big, open-world games. Main character Ayash follows a breadcrumb trail of main and side quests, taking him ever farther afield from his starting labor camp. Although it isn’t strictly a survival game, Ayash collects raw materials and ingredients for crafting weapons, arrows, food, healing items, and other consumables like magic potions and spells. Ayash is a warrior who escapes from a forced labor camp. His goal at the start is to exact revenge on the tribe that defeated his people.

The developers go out of their way to point out that the game is not based on a specific tribe or culture. As a result, they’re free to borrow animalistic masks from one source, magical beliefs from another, and ceremonial practices from somewhere else. As someone of European descent, I can’t speak to whether the game is respectful of tribal culture. I do think that Trail of Ayash comes across as “pop culture” tribal, and not a deep dive into any one tradition.

Mission Creep

I personally believe that if you love video games, you almost have an obligation to support creative developers and small teams. If making a great game is hard with a team of hundreds, doing so with a handful of people is exponentially more difficult. Trail of Ayash is immensely ambitious. I can only imagine the blood, sweat, and tears poured into its ongoing development.

On the other hand…while a grin-and-bear-it attitude might be great for eating your brussels sprouts and having a colonoscopy, it shouldn’t apply to time spent with a game. A game is fun or it isn’t. It works or it doesn’t. Whether it’s broken or perfect has nothing to do with the size of the team or their very admirable ambitions. If a game wishes to occupy the same shelf as Skyrim or Elden Ring, by definition it puts itself out there to be evaluated accordingly. Of course, being in early access does give a game some latitude for improvement.

By objective standards, Trail of Ayash checks a lot of expected RPG boxes. Large environments, combat, voiced NPCs, gathering, crafting, and survival elements are all part of the experience. At this point in the game’s development, most of these components are pretty rough, and not just around the edges. Rather than spend time piling on, let’s just say there’s fun to be had playing Trail of Ayash. But you need a pretty high tolerance for technical issues and a lack of overall refinement. Like the main character, the game will hopefully survive the journey and be better for it.

To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question

As someone intimately familiar with the admonition “jack of all trades, master of none,” I think developer Nowsky might have had ambitions that exceed a very small team’s ability to execute them all successfully. It simply tries to do too many things. Even the biggest studios narrow their games’ focus to do a few things really well. In any case, I genuinely look forward to revisiting Trail of Ayash when it’s done cooking and releases for real.

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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